33rd degree (Scottish Rite)

Skeletons in the Lodge Room

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As we often like to remind our readers, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects materials associated with any and all American Masonic and fraternal groups.  This recent acquisition is a pin that was produced for members of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) in 1905.  The two American Scottish Rite jurisdictions co-exist in the United States.  The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) oversees Scottish Rite groups in fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.  The SJ administers Scottish Rite groups in the other 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C. where their headquarters is located.  The NMJ founded the Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1975.

The two jurisdictions don’t always follow the same ritual, but the symbols on this pin were also used by the NMJ during the 1800s and early 1900s.  An illustration in The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, written by Charles McClenachan (1829-1896) in 1867 – who served as Chair of the NMJ’s Ritual Committee from 1882 to 1896 – shows the same skeleton holding a chalice and a banner (at the left side of the illustration - click on it to see a larger version).  This prop was used in the ritual for the fraternity’s honorary 33rd degree ritual. When McClenachan wrote his book in 1867, the Scottish Rite conferred degrees in much the same way as local lodges.  McClenachan’s illustration shows the men wearing sashes over their street clothes.  A few years later, members changed their rituals to theatrical endeavors complete with sets, costumes and props. RARE14.7.M126 1867DP1DB

The shape and materials of this pin were popular among fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The shield shape relates to fraternal symbolism, while the enamel face allowed for colorful and detailed decoration.  The Museum’s collection includes at least one similar pin associated with the NMJ from 1901, while the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection includes several round enamel pins produced for local Knights Templar Commanderies in 1895.

This pin was probably given or sold to attendees of the SJ’s biennial meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1905.  Along the bottom is the Latin phrase, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates to “Light After Darkness.”

Top: Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction pin, 1905, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2014.057.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Frontispiece, The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1867, Charles T. McClenachan, author, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, publisher, New York, New York, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 


A Mason Answers His Country's Call and Receives the Scottish Rite's Highest Award

As a somber nation mourned the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April of 1945, Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, received this telegram message that resides in the Archives of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library:


Telegram from Melvin M. Johnson to President Harry S. Truman
Telegram from Melvin M. Johnson to U.S. President Harry S. Truman, [undated].

President Harry S. Truman
Washington


The God of Truth and wisdom will be with you and you will succeed in the great task to which you have been called. I shall ask you for nothing except to be of service if and when I can be helpful in the least degree. 

Shall be back in Boston Monday. 

Melvin M. Johnson


For the past two years, Johnson, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction  of the Scottish Rite and a Masonic brother of Truman, had sought to award him with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s highest award, The Gourgas Medal, for Truman’s work leading the Truman Committee, a Congressional oversight body which oversaw the war effort by probing into charges of corruption. And while Truman had always been flattered by Johnson’s request, Truman's sense of duty to his country and to the Fraternity had led him to decline the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s most prestigious honor.

  Senator

Letter from U.S. Senator Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, September 8, 1944.

 

“I think you are exactly right,” Senator Truman wrote Johnson on September 8, 1944, “about the postponement of the program so far as I am concerned. No matter how deserving it might be under the circumstances it would look exactly as if it were a political program.”

Now, in April of 1945, anxious to make Truman the first recipient of the Gourgas Medal, Johnson petitioned the busy President once more.

"I hope you may find it possible to attend a session of our Supreme Council on Tuesday, September 25, 1945, at 10 a.m., or the following day, in order that I may have the honor of making you the first recipient of the Gourgas Medal."

With the war concluded and the political battles of 1944 behind him, sometime during the spring of 1945 President Truman had a change of heart, which he expressed to Johnson from the White House on May 2, 1945.

“I hope it will be possible for me to attend the meeting to receive The Gourgas Medal," Truman wrote Johnson.

Johnson wrote back to the President in September of 1945, “If it is agreeable to you, I should like to make the presentation [of the Gourgas Medal] at The White House, or wherever else you may select. I hope, however, we can make arrangements far enough in advance so that invitations may be extended to the members of Congress who are also members of our Supreme Council . . . .”

On November 21, 1945, President Harry S. Truman received the Gourgas Medal for his service to country and humanity. After the ceremony on the White House lawn had concluded, a subdued President Truman led the delegation back to his office where the President “looking down at the medal” said quietly, “I appreciate this more than anything I have received.”

 

Letter from U.S. President Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, May 2, 1945.
Letter from U.S. President Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, May 2, 1945.
Presentation of Gourgas Medal to Illustrious Harry S. Truman, 33°
Presentation of Gourgas Medal to Illustrious Harry S. Truman, 33°

Captions

Telegram from Melvin M. Johnson to U.S. President Harry S. Truman, [undated]. Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander: Subject Files. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 069.

Letter from U.S. Senator Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, September 8, 1944. Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander: Subject Files. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 069.

Letter from U.S. President Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, May 2, 1945. Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander: Subject Files. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 069.

Presentation of Gourgas Medal to Illustrious Harry S. Truman, 33°, page 136. Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite (1945). Illustrious Harry S. Truman, 33°, President of the United States, Received the Gourgas Medal. In Abstract of Proceedings of the Supreme Council, (pp. 136 – 140). [Boston: Supreme Council].

References

Letter from Melvin M. Johnson to U.S. President Harry S. Truman, April 26, 1945 [copy]. Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander: Subject Files. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 069.

Letter from Melvin M. Johnson to U.S. President Harry S. Truman, September 19, 1945 [copy]. Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander: Subject Files. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 069.

Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite (1945). Illustrious Harry S. Truman, 33°, President of the United States, Received the Gourgas Medal. In Abstract of Proceedings of the Supreme Council, (pp. 136 – 140). [Boston: Supreme Council].

 


Henry Ford Receiving the 33rd Degree in 1940

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At the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council for the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, held in September 1940 in Cincinnati, Ohio, George E. Bushnell, Deputy for the state of Michigan,

"presented the name of Henry Ford, of Dearborn, Michigan, to receive the degrees of the Rite from the Fourth to the Thirty-second, inclusive, and thereafter, the Thirty-third Degree, and asked for unanimous consent to ballot upon this nomination...The request was granted and the ballot spread and, it proving to be clear, Henry Ford was declared to be elected to receive the degrees of the Rite from the Fourth to the Thirty-second, inclusive, in some Valley of the Jurisdiction in which the degrees were being worked under the direction of the Sovereign Grand Commander, and the Thirty Third Degree after he has been duly created a Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret [i.e. 32nd degree]."


At the time that the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Supreme Council conferred the Thirty-Third degree on him at age 77, Henry Ford (1863-1947) had been a Mason for 46 years, having been raised in Detroit's Palestine Lodge No. 357 in 1894 at age 31.

On the evening of December 6, 1940, the Supreme Council opened a special meeting to confer the 33° on Henry Ford at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. The meeting opened at 9pm and was over at 11:45pm.  Among those present were the men pictured in the photo above: Ohio Governor John W. Bricker, 33°; Sovereign Grand Commander for Canada’s Supreme Council John A. Rowland, 33°; Sovereign Grand Commander for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Melvin M. Johnson, 33°; and Deputy for Michigan (and future Sovereign Grand Commander) George E. Bushnell, 33°.

While Ford was unquestionably the most well-known person in the room that evening, two other men pictured in the photo above were not only well-known within Scottish Rite Freemasonry, but were, at the same time, luminaries in the legal field. At the time of the conferral, George E. Bushnell was Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and Melvin Johnson was Dean of the Boston University Law School. John Bricker, then Governor of Ohio, was also in the legal field, having served as Attorney General for Ohio from 1933-37 before becoming governor, and returning to law practice after his twelve years (1947-1952) as a U.S. Senator from Ohio.

The photo above, which is in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, appears in the new book, A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

Caption:
(Left to right): John W. Bricker, John A. Rowland, Henry Ford, Melvin M. Johnson, and George E. Bushnell on the day Ford received the 33°, 1940. Detroit, Michigan. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 154.

Sources consulted:

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Supreme Council...Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. [Boston: Supreme Council, NMJ, 1940), 20.

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Supreme Council...Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. [Boston: Supreme Council, NMJ, 1941), pp. 4-6.


Come In from the Cold! Museum Gallery Talks, January-March

The Museum is showing two fabulous exhibitions featuring objects from our collection. The curators of these shows will present our free spring gallery talks. Come in from the cold and seize an opportunity to learn from the makers of the exhibitions!

Hilary cropped 2Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tellon view through the beginning of April, was curated by Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development. Join her for a gallery talk on Saturday, January 11, 2:00 p.m. or Saturday, February 1, 2:00 p.m. Maps can chart everything from newly explored territories, familiar hometowns or distant theatres of war. This free talk will share some of the stories maps tell.

Newell PhotoA Sublime Brotherhood:  200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was curated by Aimee E. Newell, the Museum's Director of Collections. Two free gallery talks on this show are slotted for Saturday, February 8, 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 22, 2:00 p.m.Come and learn about the Scottish Rite's French roots, its founding in America two centuries ago and its evolution into one of the most popular American fraternal groups during the 1900s. The exhibition includes photos, costumes, and Scottish Rite items, many of which have never previously been on view.

"A Sublime Brotherhood" celebrates the bicentennial of the Scottish Rite fraternity. Our readers may be interested in the accompanying anniversary publication, co-authored by Aimee E. Newell and other Museum staff. To learn more about the book and how to order it, read our previous post.

If you come to a talk on January 11 or February 1, you'll have the chance to see our Library and Archives exhibition, Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books, curated by Jeffrey Croteau, Library Manager. You can see Jeff's posts on books and manuscripts in that show here

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website: www.monh.org.


Frederick Dalcho's Scottish Rite Rituals from 1801

5.10 SC155_R231DP1DBSome of the earliest and most important Scottish Rite rituals in existence are in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. A number of them are currently on view in Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives in the library's reading room.

The earliest ritual on view is Frederick Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree (Secret Master). Dalcho (1770-1836), a medical doctor who later became an Episcopal minister, was the first Lieutenant Grand Commander of the Charleston Supreme Council (today's Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction), and served as its second Sovereign Grand Commander from 1816 until 1822. The Charleston Supreme Council was founded in 1801, but the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection (4-14) had been worked in Charleston since the founding of the Sublime Grand Lodge of Perfection in  1783. Upon its founding, the Charleston Supreme Council began bringing together groups and individual degrees that would eventually become the system of Scottish Rite degrees (4-32, as well as the 33rd) that we know today.

Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree is the closest we can get today to the first degree that a candidate would have encountered upon his entrance into the Scottish Rite during its earliest days. Scottish Rite degrees today are theatrical stage productions, an innovation that did not occur until the late nineteenth century. The ritual degrees of the Scottish Rite for most of the 1800s occurred in rectangular lodge rooms, just like the Craft degrees. In the early days of the Scottish Rite, many of the degrees were merely "communicated" to the candidate, which is to say that they were read and explained to him. If the degree were "conferred, that is, fully acted out by the candidate and members of the lodge, the conferral would have taken place in the same type of room - or possibly exactly the same room - as those of the Craft degrees, complete with props and costumes. (See this previous post to get a sense of what the lodge room for the 4th degree would have looked like in 1867.)

Also on view in Secret Scripts is a 33rd degree ritual, written ca. 1801 in Dalcho's hand. It is, in the words of Arturo de Hoyos, "the earliest thirty-third degree ritual directly traceable to the Scottish Rite." Unlike the 4th degree, the Dalcho 33rd degree ritual contains many corrections and additions, demonstrating that, from its beginnings, Scottish Rite rituals have been evolving and changing.

Be sure to check out our previous posts about other rituals that are also on view in Secret Scripts through February 1, 2014.

 Caption:

4th degree (Secret Master) Scottish Rite Ritual, 1801. Frederick Dalcho, Charleston, South Carolina. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 155-R231. Photograph by David Bohl.


Albert Pike's 1870 33° Ritual

Pike_33rd_page_1_webAlbert Pike (1809-1891), Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction from 1859 to 1891, revised all of the Scottish Rite degree rituals, including the 33°, during his tenure. A handsomely bound book, containing Pike's reworked version of the 33°, was presented to the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) in 1870. This manuscript version of Pike's 33° ritual is currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room exhibition, Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

The inscription (see below) inside the book reads:

This Copy is most respectfully Presented to the Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction of the U.S., by special permission of M∴ P∴ Albert Pike, Sov∴ Gr∴  Commander of the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, U.S., by RMCGraham, 33° Gr∴ Rep∴, New York, March 19, 1870.

Robert McCoskry Graham (1830-1890) was an Active Member of the NMJ's Supreme Council and Grand Representative from that Supreme Council to the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) from 1867 until his death in 1890. Graham lived in New York City and was actively involved in both the SJ's and NMJ's Supreme Councils.

In June 1870, three months after Graham inscribed the Pike ritual to the NMJ's Supreme Council, Albert Pike attended the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's annual meeting, held that year in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although Sovereign Grand Commanders from the NMJ and the SJ regularly attend each other's annual meetings today, Pike observed in 1870 that "It is, I think, the first time when the Grand Commander of one of our Supreme Councils has been present at a session of the other..." Although the 33° was conferred upon fourteen men at the 1870 annual meeting, the NMJ's annual Proceedings from 1870 do not indicate whether the Committee on Rituals had adopted the Pike ritual and whether that was the version of the 33° ritual that was used.

Pike_33rd_inscription_page_webThat Graham would have presented the ritual to the NMJ's Supreme Council is unsurprising. Not only was Graham the NMJ's Grand Representative to the SJ's Supreme Council, he was also close friends with Pike. Pike himself wrote the obituary for Graham that was published in the SJ's Official Bulletin. The obituary (later reprinted in Pike's collection of obituaries, Ex Corde Locutiones) is dated March 10, 1891 - less than a month before Pike's own death. Writing about Graham, Pike not only makes it clear that Graham was a friend, but that he was intimately involved with the activities of the Southern Jurisdiction's Supreme Council: "During the last ten years he had regularly been present at our sessions, feeling like one of us, and looked upon by us as one of ourselves, so much so that he sat with us in our confidential sessions, always welcomed and beloved by all."

The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction used Pike’s 33° ritual from 1870 until 1880, at which point they adopted Charles T. McClenachan’s revision of Pike’s ritual. A version of this ritual was used until 1938, when the Supreme Council approved a rewritten ritual composed by then-Sovereign Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson. It is a version of this ritual that the NMJ's Supreme Council still uses today.

For further reading:

de Hoyos, Arturo. “On the Origins of the Prince Hall Scottish Rite Rituals,” Heredom 5 (1996): 51-67. [In this article about how the NMJ assisted in the production of the United Supreme Council (PHA)'s book of Scottish Rite rituals, de Hoyos, using primary sources in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, provides a few concise paragraphs (pp.60-61) on the development of the NMJ's 33rd degree through the nineteenth century.]

Caption:

Albert Pike, Manuscript Ritual for the 33°, 1870, Washington, D.C., Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Collection, R-40.


Astronaut John Glenn's Scottish Rite Ring

Glenn Ring Front2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (see these posts for more information on the history of the Scottish Rite). The Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975. To celebrate, we are presenting a new exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.”

Opening June 15, 2013, the exhibition uses more than 100 objects and images to tell the story of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. While most people assume that the Scottish Rite began in Scotland, it was actually founded in France in the mid-1700s. Early groups met in the West Indies, eventually taking root in New York, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Glenn Ring Inside

Among the objects on view is the 33rd degree ring originally owned by astronaut and Freemason John H. Glenn Jr. (b. 1921). The first American to orbit the earth, in 1962, Glenn circled the planet three times in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7. After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1965, Glenn pursued his interest in politics. Starting in 1974, he served Ohio for four consecutive terms in the United States Senate. The Grand Master of Ohio made John Glenn a Mason at sight in 1978. In 1998, soon after Glenn received the Scottish Rite’s 33rd degree, conferred on selected members as a high honor, he wore this ring when he returned to space in the shuttle Discovery.  On the journey he became the oldest American to participate in a NASA mission.

Starting Saturday, June 15, 2013, the exhibition will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On June 15, 2013, at 2 p.m., Aimee E. Newell, the museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, will give a gallery talk. Please visit www.nationalheritagemuseum.org for more information.

Scottish Rite 33rd Degree Ring, 1998, Irons and Russell Company, New York, NY, gift of John H. Glenn Jr. in memory and honor of Vern Riffe, a good friend, 33° Mason, and the longest serving Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in history, 2000.018a. Photographs by David Bohl.


Miss Rose Lipp: Masonic Authority

SC79_12_6aDP2 In March 1912, the New England Craftsman, a monthly Masonic magazine published in Boston, Massachusetts, noted that one of the city’s regalia makers had recently changed storefronts and reminded readers that the owner “is recognized as an authority on correctness of design for the costumes of every period.” Rather than a brother Freemason, this notice referred to Miss Rose Lipp, a female manufacturer and dealer in “Masonic Supplies,” who maintained her business over at least thirty years, providing the aprons, jewels and uniforms essential to Masonic meetings and rituals.

94_012_5aDI1 The 44 items with Rose Lipp’s label in the collection of the National Heritage Museum attest to the variety available from her shop, as well as to her facility with regalia from all Masonic groups. We have 28 aprons, most for local lodges, but a few were sewn for Royal Arch chapters. For example, in 1924, she made a set of officer’s aprons for the newly-constituted Russell Lodge in Arlington, Massachusetts. The 14-apron set is now in the Museum’s collection and the Master’s apron is seen here. These aprons were a gift to the lodge from the other lodges in the district.

In addition to the aprons, we have two turbans, two robes, one sword, one sword belt, one hat, one fez, one badge, one collar, two miniature souvenir aprons, and four Scottish Rite sashes with Lipp’s label. One of those sashes is shown here; it was originally presented to Josiah T. Dyer when he received his 33rd degree from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. SC79_12_6aDP1 All of these objects help us to better understand the role that a female entrepreneur like Rose Lipp played in Boston Freemasonry.

Label Detail from Scottish Rite 33rd-degree sash (see below).

Masonic Apron, 1924, Rose Lipp Regalia Co., Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Russell Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Arlington, Massachusetts, 94.012.5a.

Scottish Rite 33° Sash, 1910-1930, Miss Rose Lipp, Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., SC79.12.6a. Photograph by David Bohl.


Wings Up or Wings Down?: Using Books to Find An Answer

[Note: this article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Northern Light, the membership magazine for the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.]

Maybe you've just joined the Scottish Rite, or maybe you’ve been a Scottish Rite member for years and have been elected to receive the 33°. You or a family member enthusiastically set out to buy something to commemorate the occasion. Right away, you notice that many of the double-headed eagles are available in either the "wings up" or the "wings down" position. You wonder, "what’s the difference?"  Asking your Scottish Rite brothers, you receive answers that are all slightly different and sometimes contradictory.

Baynard_Double_Headed_Eagle_detail_web Where can you find a definitive answer?
Call me biased, but I’d say one of your best bets (short of reading this article) is to contact the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives at the National Heritage Museum. I’ve had members contact me with this question and here’s how I was able to deliver a definitive answer.

First, I looked at two popular books on Freemasonry. Christopher Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies and S. Brent Morris’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry both address this question. They draw the same conclusion: in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the wings-up version of the double-headed eagle is reserved for Active and Active Emeritus members. (No importance is attached to wing position in the Southern Jurisdiction.)

That’s a good start, but I wanted an authoritative source, so I looked at the Supreme Council 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s own Constitutions. In the 2009 edition of the Constitutions, articles 1216 through 1219 address the design of caps (optional in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, but still sometimes worn) and lapel buttons.

Orient_of_Philadelphia_Double_Headed_Eagle_detail_web In the description of 33° Active and Active Emeritus caps (art. 1219.1) and lapel buttons (art. 1216), the double-headed eagle is described as "a double-headed eagle, wings extended and pointing up." For the cap (art. 1219.2) and label button (art. 1217) of a 33° Honorary Member, the eagle is described as a "double-headed eagle, wings extended and pointing down," and for 32° lapel buttons (art. 1218.1) the eagle is described as a "double-headed eagle of gold, wings extended and pointing down."

It looks like the Supreme Council’s Constitutions first addressed wing position in 1934, with the description of lapel buttons, which had been formally introduced in 1927. The Constitutions did not describe caps until the 1955 revision and the position of the double-headed eagle’s wings on caps was not addressed until the 1960s.

Double-headed eagles only appear on 32° rings and are described in article 1209 of the Constitutions: "A Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret is authorized to wear a ring, the basic design of which shall be the double-headed eagle." We can infer that the wings should be pointed down.

Looking at the published Proceedings of the Supreme Council, I found that the wings-up versus wings-down question is not new. In a report on the double-headed eagle delivered by the Committee on Ritual and Ritualistic Matter at the 1885 Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council, they concluded "The rising eagle [i.e. wings up] is not improperly represented, and to those who prefer the ascending position there is, and can be, no objection." This indicates that the question was being asked 125 years ago, although the answer back then was different.

While I have focused on the personal use of double-headed eagles in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, it’s also worth noting that some Supreme Councils in the world use a wings-up double-headed eagle as the emblem of their Council. Both Supreme Councils in the United States use a wings-down version.

In conclusion, unless you are one of the approximately fifty 33° Active Members or an Active Emeritus Member of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the answer to the question "wings up or wings down?" is this: wings down.

Captions:

Detail from cover of Samuel H. Baynard’s History of the Supreme Council, 33°…Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 1938. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 17.9735 .B361 1938.

Detail from cover of By-laws of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Orient of Philadelphia, Valley of Pennsylvania, 1878. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 17.9735 .Un58 1878.